Under Santa Fe Skies

by Susan Tungate

I Salute A Few of My Favorite Santa Fe Businesses

Santa Fe is a town largely comprised of local, privately owned businesses whose owners work darn hard for their money. It is a tough town. On this last day of 2015, I want to thank just a few of the local business owners who enriched my life this year, first by their heartfelt presence in this community and second by the services and products they offer.

First up, The Video Library. The Vid was opened by owner/operator/counselor/cat activist/chocolate chip cookie lover  Lisa Harris and buyer Casey St. Charnez in 1981, the very first video store in the state of New Mexico. You can find mainstream releases as well as rare, out of print and hard to find movies. And you will find Lisa, who has one of the biggest hearts on the planet, and her great staff who are all walking encyclopedias of cinema, ready to offer suggestions that fit your mood. Go. Browse. Chat. Rent.

Downtown Subscription, located a block from Canyon, has great coffee, pastries, the best selection of magazines in Santa Fe, a front patio where you can bring your dog and a back patio with a fountain and lovely flowers. And they have the nicest team of baristas. On Sundays I often buy my New York Times, order a cappuccino and sit for an unseemly length of time reading the paper and inevitably chatting with someone I never met before. Before heading home, I head to Garcia Street Books which is located on the other side of the wall from DTS. A real bookstore where you can browse, ask folks what they are reading and discover the exact book you needed that day but had never heard of five minutes before you walked into the place. Amazon is not the be all and end all, folks.

Kristin Mader, muse/proprietor/artist/creative spirit/witty woman of Wild Hare salon,  patiently and beautifully tends my mass of hair with a smile on her face, no small feat. The salon is gorgeous with its crystal chandelier and art, the staff is talented and the products smell delightful. Kristin and Wild Hare are simply the best. Anywhere.

Ranger owns the New Old Trail Garage. He has been praying over and maintaining my 1998 Ford Explorer since I road into town in, well, 1998. Where else can you drive up as I did Tuesday, ask him to please check the antifreeze level (it just occurred to me after two weeks of freezing cold) and replace the wiper blade I accidently shredded when I ripped it too vigorously from the icy windshield, and the owner stops what he is doing and does it, plus checks the tires and adds more windshield wiper fluid. And he neither shames me nor charges more than a fair fee.

When I go to the Farmers’ Market, I buy from farmers who are now my friends. They picked the flowers or lettuce or spinach and boxed the eggs or made the bread the day before. No vegetables grown in South America wrapped in plastic. Farm to table, a community.

Rand and Cindy Cook, two of the nicest people I know, own The Candyman Strings & Things, which really has become a little community center. They were named (drum roll) Dealer of the Year at the National Association of Music Merchants Top 100 Dealer Awards. Number One in the entire US! And they are right here in Santa Fe! They have everything you could want from guitars and drums and amps and keyboards to ukuleles, one of which has my name on it, and classes to learn how to play your chosen instrument. The staff will help you select the instrument for you or yours. Check out their Summer Rock Camp, too, and all of their other services on their website. They can also work with you over the phone.

I thank Harry’s Roadhouse for the occasional hit of cheese enchiladas drenched in red and green chile, aka Christmas. I leave a happy woman.

And on a personal note, I thank all of my writing students for sitting around my table and sharing their unique stories. I think it is an act of bravery as well as creativity. I thank all the clients who have trusted me to edit their manuscripts and those who have asked me to write their stories for them. It is my honor, my privilege, my delight.

Faith and Hope: A Pilgrimage to Chimayo

On Good Friday, the annual Easter pilgrimage to the small adobe chapel in Chimayo, New Mexico will begin. By Sunday, as many as 50,000 people will walk the ninety miles from Albuquerque, the fourteen miles from Chupadero, the forty miles from Taos or the twenty-five miles from Santa Fe pushing baby carriages and wheelchairs, bearing crosses and statues of their patron saints, holding high photographs of loved ones who are ill in a petition for healing. Some will park their cars along the highway and join the others as they walk the last few miles on the winding two lane highway that leads to the Santuario de Chimayo.

People from all over the world and all religions make the pilgrimage. They walk in memory of a loved one or as a prayer for peace. Some walk because their grandmother told them the journey is part of their heritage. They must follow the foot prints of their parents and grandparents and great grandparents  in giving thanks for God’s gifts.

Most walk as a demonstration of their faith, their belief in a God who listens to their prayers. When they arrive at the Santuario, they sit in the pews and pray and then enter the adjacent room to finger the dirt thought to bring forth miracles.

And for those not rooted in faith who walk to be part of a community, to be part of something larger than themselves, they may find a message of hope in the form of a lone peach tree in full bloom, flourishing in the sandy soil.


Modern General

In the not too distant past, the world offered fewer choices, but people took their allegiance to one product or service over another very, very seriously.  For example, your family was either aligned with Ford or Chevy, Coke or Pepsi, cornflakes or shredded wheat (maybe, maybe you could convince your mother to buy frosted cornflakes), Time or Newsweek, Walter Cronkite or Huntley- Brinkley, Ivory soap or Palmolive.  We were a Ford, Coke, cornflakes, Time , Huntley- Brinkley and Ivory soap family and that was pretty much that.

Then the world exploded with products and brands.  Now there is a lot of stuff out there, but a lot of the stuff is junk. Who has time to research the “best” in any given category?

Enter Erin Wade  who just opened Modern General, located  adjacent to her farm to table restaurant Vinaigrette on 637 Cerrillos. The space is bright and light and welcoming with a large table for eating, reading and chatting with friends.

Modern General harkens back to the general stores of old, a community space with hardware, books, and a cafe, but with a twist. Erin sells only one kind of any one item: one shovel, one shampoo, one hammer, one brand of coffee, one cutting board.  She offers items she actually uses and is guided by the slogan “everything you need and nothing you don’t.”

The cafe serves fresh squeezed juices and smoothies, fresh wheatgrass, one type of breakfast sandwich, one lunch sandwich, homemade granola drizzled with honey, freshly brewed coffee, apricot kolaches from Erin’s grandmother’s recipe.

Just stand at the front of the store and look around. A narrative unfolds. One can be enough. Elegant design, functionality, longevity and simplicity, all in one perfect shovel.


36 Hours in Santa Fe


Last Sunday’s New York Times ran 36 Hours in Santa Fe. Fine picks but the usual suspects.

Here are a few suggestions from a local that may not pop up in the guide books. And locals, feel free to let me know your suggestions.

1.  Go for a walk. Anywhere. The town has no industry, which is possibly the reason we are in an economic bind, but the upside is no pollution and breath taking blue skies 300 days a year, give or take. Absolutely do take that guide book recommended walk down Canyon Road with all the art galleries, but walk south on Garcia Street off Canyon, find a book at Garcia Street Books, walk next door for a chile mocha at Downtown Subscriptions, rest your feet a bit and read. Then take Acequia Madre Street east and walk along the Acequia Madre ( the Mother Ditch) built a few hundred years ago to irrigate the farms that were replaced long ago by adobe homes. Meander around the little residential streets. Or drive up Hyde Park Road to the ski basin area and take a little walk on one of the trails. Gorgeous views of the mountains.

2.  Head to the Railyard area a few blocks south of the Plaza. If you are there on a Saturday morning, peruse the Farmers’ Market. Little gift items abound this time of year: soaps, ristras, little horse-like items made with sage, hand knit caps, pottery. GRAB A PACKAGE OF BISCOCHITOS!  Then walk next door to The Flea, a large market filled with antiques, collectables, stuff,  the odd and the interesting. Walk north. You will see a sign on the left for The Ark. It is full of books and cds and jewelry and rocks. Head north again to Sanbusco Market and buy a snazzy sweater for your puppy at Teca Tu or a sweater for yourself at Bodhi Bazaar or a book at Op Cit. Walk out the front entrance of Sanbusco and check out George (just call me King of Thrones) R.R. Martin’s newly renovated Jean Cocteau Cinema. Better yet, plan ahead and catch a movie. The lobby has a bar and fresh popcorn with real butter. Heaven.

3. Need some pampering? Sure the hotels have some great spas and 10,000 Waves is a mecca, but there is also a little place called Mist, a serene space that uses heavenly products and gives take-all-the-tension-out-of-your-entire-being-including-your-hair-follicles facials and massages. Call ahead.

4. Want to take a yoga class to unwind from your flight? Call Body or contact Shibana and see if she is offering a class that day. Shibana is a treasure on this earth.

5.  Take a drive up Museum Hill. The Folk Art Museum is a treasure, too. An even bigger treasure is the view from the top of the steps. That view goes on forever.

6.  For dinner, come back toward the Railyard area. Have the best margarita and enchilladas at Tomasita’s or La Choza.

7.  For breakfast, Tia Sophia downtown, one of those places that has been here forever. Can you say sopapilla with honey?

8.  If you come to Santa Fe in the winter, you must find a fireplace, perhaps the one at La Fonda Hotel, beg them to throw a pinon log on the fire, order a beverage and get comfy. I swear, I would die happy if that was the last thing I smelled—a burning pinon log.

9.  Todos Santos Chocolates tucked away at Sena Plaza off the Plaza gets my vote for the best place to buy chocolates. The place is enchanting and whimsical and edgy all at the same time. Killer handmade chocolates. Just go.

10.  If you are around the Plaza area, walk down Grant Street or East Palace and see the Victorian houses built before the PR people in the early 1900s decided adobe was the way to go to bring in tourists on the train from the east. Just charming. Find  Antiques and Interiors on Grant housed in one of the old Victorian homes. Look closely. The adobe is painted to look like brick.

11.  As for a place to stay, La Posada may not be the most luxurious, opulent place in town, but it is a artsy funky lovely adobe Santa Fe hotel,  unlike any place you will find in any other place.

12.  Oh, and one more suggestion. Want to watch a movie and stay snuggled under your comforter? Stop by the Video Library. First, you will find movies you will not find online or offline in the chain stores. Second and even better, you will meet the lovely and knowledgeable owner Lisa who will help you find the perfect movie to fit your mood. The Vid is one of the heart beats of Santa Fe.

(Apologies for the funky type. I think the blog is annoyed with me for staying away so long, or perhaps annoyed I returned.)

Memoir Monday: “The Power of -ish” by Lisa S. Harris

“-ish” changed my life. It sounds a bit overstated, but it’s true.

In the early days of Video Library, I tried hard to get the store open on time. But as Yoda says, “There is no try, there is only do or do not.” Unless I am up against an immovable deadline, like catching a flight or making a movie on time or else, I only can do or do not, but generally, I’m afraid, it’s do not.

Being on time is tough for me, since I have been running late since five minutes after the dawn of time. This is a fact. For I was supposed to be born at the end of June, but kept my parents-to-be waiting and didn’t manage to arrive until six laborious weeks later, on August 7th.

I haven’t been on time since.

True, it’s not always my fault to be exiting the house later than I should to get the store open on time. People who know me realize I have always lived with many animals, and I mean many. So, with feeding, cleaning, playing, and dealing with the frequent artful escape, I’m almost always running behind schedule.

I have to admit, it’s not always the animals. The other morning I was in the driveway, car running, almost gone, and when I glanced in the rearview mirror and, to my utter horror, I saw I’d forgotten to put on my mascara. That’s like going out naked! So naturally I had to run back inside, apply the precious stuff, and run get back into the car, making me four minutes tardy, when for once it actually had looked as if I were going to make it on time.


For a long time, I tried to make up for lost time by being an observant and opportunistic driver. Not aggressive, oh no, not me. Since I have driven the same route to work for decades, I well know the one current ultimate set of directions that quickly will get me through traffic. Those driving directions include: Take Cerrillos only in the morning, never at noon; Avoid the Plaza, too many pedestrians; Evade the RailRunner wherever it crosses the road; Remember the efficient UPS drivers’ mantra of “Right turns only”; Be open to opportunity; And always have one eye scouting for a new, shorter back alley route that gets me to work quicker. On a good day, like a Sunday morning when all the lights are with me, the drive can take eleven or twelve minutes. A bad day, like one with a downtown Special Event Ahead!, or with encountering some jam-up due to road construction or a detour, it can be twenty.

Still, my husband Casey says my philosophy of motoring always reminds him of that Stephen King story “Mrs. Todd’s Shortcut,” based on King’s wife Tabitha, about a woman eternally obsessed with finding the fastest way from one point to another, but it sure costs her. I do not necessarily count myself in that category, but that’s what Casey says.

Man, I really do remember this one particular morning, as I was characteristically running behind. There I was maneuvering through traffic as usual, when suddenly a bicyclist comes out of nowhere, and I mean nowhere, like out of another dimension, causing all the cars to slam on their brakes simultaneously. In about two seconds, we all went from doing forty to going zero. I was surrounded by, and immersed in, screeching tires, fishtailing autos, and panicked lane-changing. I rose out of my seat as far as the seatbelt allowed and literally stood on the brake pedal, shuddering to a halt after several            l-o-n-g seconds.

I recall so many details. The scared face of the driver in front of me as reflected in her rearview mirror. The terrified pedestrian who had appeared seemingly out of thin air. The huge truck behind me that was drew closer without apparent slowing. Then, at last, the adrenaline jolt that flooded me as I realized it was over and that nothing had happened. Astoundingly, no one had hit anything! No sickening crunch of steel to hear eternally, no horrifying splattered person to haunt my three a.m.’s forevermore. A total escape, accomplished only by timing and/or fate.

Traffic flow resumed haltingly. Deeply nerve-rattled, I continued to wend my way to The Vid, despite a now-nauseous gut and the familiar metallic taste of fear in my mouth.

As I pulled into the Vid’s parking lot, I saw a woman waiting for me. When I stopped, she hurried up to my driver’s side open window, thrusting her rental in my face, belligerently saying, “This didn’t work. So you owe me.” At that moment, I realized I had raced, risking my life and others’, simply to get to my store so that somebody could yell at me, first thing.

Not worth it.

Never again.

That same morning, after unlocking the door and getting ready for the day’s business, I collected all three of the signs displaying our business hours, erased the hours, and re-wrote our opening time as “9:30-ish.” Every day. The near-miss changed my driving habits and helped cure that ulcer I was working on.

So I never set a new record getting to the store any more.

Reassuringly, most of my customers have embraced “-ish.” A few have brought their out-of-town guests by just to see the signs. Sometimes in summer I see tourists walk up to the window and take photographs.  Personally, I have to say, I like the unforeseen way that “-ish” resembles my initials “lsh” in lower case, like it’s fate, like it began at birth. Like I have always been right on time.

©Lisa S. Harris 2014

In 1981 Lisa S. Harris opened the first video rental store in New Mexico. She has been behind the counter of Video Library dispensing movies, recommendations and therapy ever since. She loves Casey, cats, movies and bacon.

Downtown Subscription


The first place I lived in Santa Fe is about four blocks from Downtown Subscription, which is located on Garcia Street between Canyon Road and Acequia Madre. At that time, I was working for CNN, telecommuting between Santa Fe and Atlanta. On days I was feeling a bit stir crazy in Virtual Atlanta and needed a break, I walked to DTS around 10 AM, lunch time eastern standard time, for my double cappuccino and a seat in the sun positioned for people watching.

This photo taken on a cold and cloudy February morning fails to give you the true picture of the place. The front patio is normally crowed with people and dogs. It is one of those places that every morning a cadre of the same old men and a smattering of women of a certain age gather to read the NYT, listen to the men pontificate and drink coffee. It is the default place  to meet a friend for coffee.

DTS is one of the few places remaining in Santa Fe where you can purchase a magazine other than Oprah’s “O.”  You can also buy a burrito or pastry along with your coffee or tea.

And you might spot a famous person. Sam Sheppard with his spiked grey hair is a regular. If he sits alone, it is by his choice.

At one point in time Gene Hackman sat in the corner working with his co-writer on their novel. Ali McGraw is a regular. Randy Travis use to be, in better days. Renee Zellweger frequented DTS when she was in Santa Fe shooting a movie.  One Sunday she plopped down next to me on said patio and chatted away.

At any given time, though, half the patrons are writers who hope to be famous. People line the walls with serious expressions on their faces, sipping coffee and typing their novels or memoirs.

I still stop by on Sundays for the NYT. Every once in awhile I take a seat on the front patio with Georgia the Dog. One recent Sunday one of the older guys, who actually lived next door to me all those years ago, took a seat next to mine. He announced he was newly engaged to a woman twenty years his junior. But he had a question: “Do you think I could snag a woman who is forty years younger? I have been thinking I might like to have a second round of kids. I think I would be a better dad now.” I smiled and said, “Oh, that’s right! You own a company that builds windmill farms!”


Deluxe 1950 Plymouth Turtle Back Business Sedan

A very long time ago, I lived in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. There was not too much going on in Carlisle at that time despite the fact the town was home to the Army War College, Dickinson College and Dickinson School of Law. The natives pretty much chose to keep life simple. Growing white asparagus was the highlight, with one notable exception: The Carlisle Auto Fair.

Every year the muddy Carlisle Fairgrounds was over taken by miles of muddy men selling hubcaps for Oldsmobiles made in 1954-1962, tires for Fords from the 1960s, Corvette hood ornaments, Tbird steering wheels, you name it. Quite the subculture. My Pittsburgh brother, a corporate lawyer, was into restoring vintage cars as a hobby. Once a year he would trade in his dress shoes for boots and drive on over to Carlisle to peruse the hubcaps. I went with him.

“Not original paint on that Ford,” he would whisper to me with a hint of distain.

“How much for that trim?” he’d ask a guy in dirty jeans smoking a cigarette hovering over odd shaped pieces of steel. On hearing the answer my brother would shake his head and say, “Nahhhhh, you’re kidding me! That’s way too much.” Then after about 15 minutes of faux haggling Brother would walk away holding some curvy chrome item purchased at the price they both had in mind at the beginning of negotiations.

One year we were walking around when we spotted a group of tough looking dudes all in black sitting up on the hill. They spotted us first. “How much for the woman?” one guy asked my brother. I pretty much put my feet into 5th gear. Brother had spent a lot of money that day and might want to off set costs.

I thought of all this today when I took my car to the New Old Santa Fe Trail Garage for a new brake light. Ranger and Joe have been praying over my car, that would be the same car, for 15 years. After Joe quickly popped in the new light, I looked over at the garage and saw a very shiny black vintage car.

“Was that car made in about 1950?” I asked. Joe about fell to the ground. He knows I do not know how to add windshield wiper fluid.

“YES! I restored it. It’s a 1950 Plymouth Business Sedan, Turtle Back Deluxe model. Very rare.”

So here you go Brother, complete with dice and cherries:




Pilgrimage to Chimayo


Last Friday I saw one lone man with a cane making the annual Easter pilgrimage to the small adobe chapel known as the “Lourdes of America” in Chimayo, New Mexico. By Sunday, the numbers will swell to as many as 50,000 people.

Some will walk the 90 miles from Albuquerque, the 14 miles from Chupadero, the 40 miles from Taos or the 25 miles from Santa Fe. They will line the highways bearing crosses and carrying photographs of  loved ones who are ill or who have departed. Some will walk from Espanola as their parents and grandparents did before them, pushing baby strollers and holding statues of saints. Some will park their cars along the highway and join the others as they walk the last few miles on the winding two lane highway that leads to the Santuario de Chimayo. That’s what I did last year.

People of all religions make the pilgrimage. They walk as an act of gratitude or in memory of a loved one or as a prayer to end wars. I am sure some people make the walk just to be a part of what is called the nation’s largest public display of devotion, a tradition that goes back to the early 1800s.

The safety of all is overseen by members of 26 organizations who have joined together as part of a  ”catastrophic incident management plan.” Law enforcement will place orange barrels on a section of  U.S. 84/285 to mark the walking path and erect electronic signs to caution drivers.

When they arrive at the Santuario, they will likely scoop up the “holy dirt” thought to bring forth miracles. They will walk through the grounds or sit for a few minutes in the Chapel. Leona’s, which stopped serving food a few years ago, will be open this weekend to serve drinks, tomales and frito pies.

I leave you with a few photographs of the grounds. For a glimpse of the Easter walk of pilgrims, click here. Happy Easter. Happy Passover. Happy Spring to all.



355 E. Palace Avenue

In 2003, I received my last paycheck from CNN, took and passed the New Mexico bar exam, then rented a tiny space at 355 E. Palace Avenue for my law office.  The historic  Francisca Hinojos House built in the 1800′s was my dream space with its red tin roof, thick adobe walls, portals, hard wood floors with high ceilings and fireplaces. The bonus: the kind and warm and funny Bill and Maureen (Sam) Field owned the place. The house had been in Bill’s family forever.

As I was decorating my office and trying to make it the most user friendly, lovely law office I could,  it occurred to me that my inner Francophile had taken over. The space  was looking a bit like a French salon. Since I was in the City Different, I decided to go with that. What would be unseemly in Atlanta is applauded as creative individuality in Santa Fe.


I filled an armoire and a buffet with my collection of vintage French sheets,  textiles and pillows. From Monday through Friday, I was Susan Tungate, Attorney at Law, LLC. On Saturdays and Sundays, I threw open the doors, pulled out my textiles,  and planted my red and white Tulipe Antiques sign in the front yard of the building.

People came. Eventually I rented a larger space. Tulipe became a place where people purchased my beautiful textiles, yes, but they stayed for a cup of tea, or to hear a short story a writer was working on or to  listen to a young musician so appreciative to have her first audience. My friends knew where to find me and visit. The space at 355 E. Palace Ave. became a gathering place. It was a sad day when I decided the recession was not a good time to either rent the space or sell antiques.

It was a sadder day today when I read that last night at 8 p.m., 355 E. Palace was engulfed in flames.  I drove over just to see for myself. The thick adobe walls outside held firm, but the red roof undulates, parts are burned out. As I was standing there looking at the ruins, Sam and Bill arrived. So sad. I heard the fireman tell them the place was destroyed, currently listed as condemned.

I don’t know what will happen next. I do know that for a few wonderful years my space at 355 E. Palace Ave. was a home, a home for beginnings, transitions and hope. Bill and Sam, thank you. I am so sorry.



New Mexico’s Citizen Legislature

The New Mexico Legislature is a “citizen legislature.” What that means is the Legislators are not paid a salary.  As a consequence most Legislators are either wealthy, retired or have flexible jobs that allow them the time off during the Session. They are paid a modest per diem, but no salary. 

Some argue this is just fine since the Legislature only meets alternatively either 60 days a year or 30 starting in mid January. The reality is the conscientious  Legislators work hard and work year round, assisting their constituents, attending interim committee meetings or working the Session. I am mentioning all this because the 60 day 2013 Legislature is now in Session.

I worked as  media liason for the Majority Office of the House of  Representatives for several years. I had the opportunity to see the Legislators in action and some days in in-action. The 60 day Sessions are brutal. In addition to working on the state’s budget, any Legislator can introduce a bill on any topic, and they do. The 30 day Sessions are no day at the beach, even if we had a beach, but at least the topics of the bills are limited to the budget and whatever is on the Governor’s list.

Some days the bills debated are more on the light hearted side, but they still can take hours to pass a Chamber since everyone wants to put in his or her two cents.  For example, I was present when the House voted to make the hot air balloon the state aircraft, the bolo tie the state tie and the state cowboy song “Under New Mexico Skies.” Actually, my recollection is the cowboy song took several Sessions and several versions of the song to pass. All of these bills became law.

I took a look at the list of some of New Mexico’s other official state symbols. I am going to share them with you because I think, taken as a whole, they do tell you quite a bit about the Land of Enchantment. So here you go:

Fish: cutthroat trout

Motto: It grows as it goes.

Cookie: bizcochito

Amphibian: New Mexico spadefoot toad

Gem: turquoise

Animal: black bear

Flower: yucca

Bird: roadrunner

Vegetable…….refried beans with chile pepper